With Joe Montana looking on from the sidelines, Clausen threw the first "game-winning" pass of his Notre Dame career. The Irish offense (or "Blue" squad) defeated the Irish defense ("Gold") 47-46 courtesy of a last-minute, fourth-and-goal, eight-yard touchdown pass from Clausen to Duval Kamara. The Blue-Gold Game may not have taught us much about whether Notre Dame will regain bowl-eligible form in 2008, but it did prove one thing: the Irish still have a flair for the dramatic.
Clausen and Kamara were just two of a slew of Irish sophomores (sophomores-to-be, that is) who made the greatest impact on the 79th annual Blue-Gold Game. Kamara's touchdown grab was made possible by a 57-yard Clausen-to-Golden Tate fourth-down completion four plays earlier. That completion outdistanced by 13 yards Notre Dame's longest pass play of 2007 (and by 12 yards its longest play overall).
Tate is also a sophomore, as is Robert Hughes, who led all rushers with 100 yards on 22 carries and scored the game's only other offensive touchdown. Hughes was named Offensive MVP while his classmate, Harrison Smith, was named Defensive MVP. The 6-2, 205-pound Smith, who never stepped on the field last season, intercepted a Clausen pass early in the second half and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown. In the aftermath, frustrated sophomore tight end Dave Ragone shoved sophomore cornerback Raeshon McNeil, inciting a brief -- what would you call it? -- "skirmish" on the gridiron.
"I'd call it a perfect example to teach," said head coach Charlie Weis, fully cognizant that sophomores are prone to sophomoric behavior. "I think probably the only real disappointment out of this game right here was you're trying to coach emotion, and you saw a lack of composure at the same time."
To bolster that claim, Weis mentioned that Hughes should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he tossed the ball skyward after scoring from a yard out in the first half. "I went over to the official and said, 'Would you have called an unsportsmanlike (in a real game)?' And he said, 'Yeah, I would have called it there.'"
Sophomores. "Wise fools" is the translation from Greek. And to base any expectations on the coming season on today's spring game, that's what you must be. Because, while nobody expects the Irish to suffer through a repeat of last year's 3-9 calamity (or worse), this is a program whose success next year hinges heavily on how its sophomores perform.
Consider the difference a year makes. In last year's Blue-Gold game Clausen, then a freshman already enrolled at Notre Dame, attempted seven passes, his longest completion going for 13 yards. And due to bone spurs in his right elbow, Clausen would never have been given permission to throw a Hail Mary pass the likes of which he uncorked to Tate on Saturday.
"At this point last year, I knew that in a couple of days (Jimmy) was going to go get his elbow scoped," Weis said. "It was really that the whole quarterback situation was a little bit chaotic at the time, I'd have to say."
Lingering questions were answered emphatically by the 2012 team, but 2013 is an all-new season that brings all-new question marks. Brian Kelly feels fairly confident his offense is in a great position to take a step forward, but to do that, they’ll need the services of some under-the-radar players.
Notre Dame's 2012 season
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Meet the 2012 Irish
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2012 Notre Dame opponents
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